Tennessee at No. 1 Florida
Kiffin will never admit it publicly, but he has to be shaking in his boots, wondering what the defending National Champions have planned for his undermanned squad. Tennessee has some talented players, but Florida is loaded from top to bottom and they return their entire defense from last year. So far they’ve walked over two cupcakes and, from what I’ve been able to gather, this game could be over early at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this Saturday as Meyer exacts some revenge on the man (Kiffin) who decided to open his mouth and insert his foot several times during some heated recruiting battles that took place in the SEC.
Also of note is the fact that the Gators have won the past two games by a combined score of 89-26.
Here’s a look at the top Draft prospects on both rosters in our featured matchup…
Florida QB Tim Tebow (6-3, 245) – There may not be a better leader in the country than Tebow. His now famous post-game speech following Florida’s loss to Mississippi last year is already the stuff of legend and he’s got a Heisman from 2007 to prove his worth, both to the Gators as well as to the entire game of College Football. He’s an outstanding athlete, he’s got the arm to make all the throws and he makes good decisions. Where he struggles is when teams get a pass-rush straight up the middle, causing him to have to slide left or right to avoid the rush. When he does that he’s more likely to run than to keep his eyes up and make a play down the field. He also isn’t a superb technician and his mechanics can fail him at times, allowing the ball to sail a little bit. At the pro level, many expect him to have to move to tight end or H-Back, but according to Gator insiders, he wants to play quarterback and expects to enter the NFL playing that position. No matter where he plays, he’s a first round talent and I expect his name to be called early in the process.
MLB Brandon Spikes (6-3, 256) – Spikes possesses the ideal size to play middle linebacker in the NFL and had he left last season he easily would have been drafted in the first round. Spikes fills hard against the run and takes on blockers well, using his instincts and athleticism to really be a factor against he run. With better technique he wouldn’t have to use his outstanding athleticism to make plays and that’s something he’s worked on after watching Florida’s first two games. Spikes is a good leader, very vocal and players gravitate to him. His game reminds me a lot of current Arizona Cardinals LB Gerald Hayes.
CB Joe Haden (5-11, 190) – He’s only a junior, but Haden could be one of the best corners in the country. He’s very fast, possessing 4.4 speed and he’s super-quick, able to change direction quickly without any lost motion. I also love his change of direction and the way he gets out of his backpedal. He could have better ball-awareness, but that has improved all three years he’s been on campus. He’s good at supporting the run, he fills hard and he likes to throw his body around. You’d like for him to be a little more physical with receivers, but you can live with him out on the edge against the oppositions top wideout because he’s got the speed and athleticism to make a play on any ball thrown in the air.
Other Gator players to watch: DE Carlos Dunlap (jr.); WR Riley Cooper; DE Jermaine Cunningham; RB Brandon James; WR Carl Moore; LB Ryan Stamper.
S Eric Berry (5-11, 205) – He’s only a junior, but I would be shocked if he came back for his senior season. Berry can do it all and reminds many of current Baltimore Ravens S Ed Reed. Both are ball-hawks and both make plays when the ball is in their hands. Berry is consistent and a leader. He’s started every game (28) since he landed in Rocky Top and he’s picked off 12 passes and returned them for an astounding 487 yards. As long as he stays healthy he should break Terrell Buckley’s record for career interception return yardage (501) set from 1989 to 1991. He’s more physical than his size would indicate, but at times he struggles to wrap up. He’s also a gambler, taking chances in coverage because of his outstanding speed and athleticism. Don’t be surprised if he goes before the more highly-acclaimed Taylor Mays should he declare himself eligible for next year’s Draft.
TE Jeff Cottam (6-8, 260) – Cottam is the ideal blocking tight end that can add a little to the passing game if he isn’t asked to do too much. I love how physical Cottam is at the point of attack. He’s big enough to handle defensive ends and outside linebackers, but at times he struggles with his technique, but he’s a great down blocker. Cottam also has soft hands, but he doesn’t get the ball thrown his way much. Last season he struggled with a broken leg from spring football and only played in the final eight games, so this season is big for him in establishing himself as a draft-worthy player.
OT Chris Scott (6-4, 340) – Scott probably is a better fit inside at guard at the pro level, but he’s got excellent feet and he’s very physical for a tackle. Scott could sneak into the second round with a good senior season because of his versatility. I like the way he gets to the next level when blocking and he plays to the whistle, which is something you can’t coach.
Other Volunteer players to watch: G Vladimir Richard; DT Dan Williams, LB Rico McCoy; LB LaMarcus Thompson (jr.); TE Luke Stocker (jr.); WR Quintin Hancock.
A great game that should feature some intriguing prospects will be when No. 8 California heads to Minnesota to take on the Gophers. Cal possesses one of the most electric playmakers in the country in RB Jahvid Best. The talented back has world-class speed (4.32) and more moves than Emmitt Smith on Dancing with the Stars. Because of his size and durability concerns, he won’t be a 25 carry back in the NFL, but he’s very comparable to Houston’s Steve Slaton and what he can do on the field.
Cal has three solid linebackers in seniors Desmond Bishop and Eddie Young and junior Mike Mohamed. Two other Golden Bear defenders to watch are DE Tyson Alualu and CB Syd’Quan Thompson. Alualu can play end in a 3-4 scheme or slide inside and be a solid three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3.
Minnesota doesn’t have the speed Cal has, but they have one of the best wideouts in the country in Eric Decker whose size and hands make him a threat anywhere on the field. Decker combines with underrated QB Adam Weber, a junior, to form one of the better combos in the country.
The man expected to deal with Best most of the day will be Nathan Triplett, one of the better linebackers in the Big 10. Helping Triplett out will be defensive tackles Garrett Brown and Eric Small and out wide the Gophers will throw CB Traye Simmons at Cal’s talented wideouts – Nyan Boateng, Verran Tucker and Marvin Jones.
Another game to watch will be the No. 9 Nebraska/No. 13 Virginia Tech tilt that will take place in Blacksburg.
Cornhusker DT Ndamukong Suh is one of the top interior defensive linemen in the country and he’s likely to be a top 10 selection next April. He’s quick off the snap and great against the run. His only flaw is that he’s almost too aggressive, running himself out of plays that he could easily make.
Even though he hasn’t had a great start to the 2009 season, Nebraska DE Barry Turner. He’s an outstanding pass-rusher and he causes a lot of problems with his speed and explosive first step.
Offensively, the Cornhuskers don’t have a lot of NFL talent in their senior class, but keep an eye on junior TB Roy Helu, Jr., a grind-it-out running back that has just enough speed to get outside.
Virginia Tech DT Cordarrow Thompson is a brute on the inside, but he needs to get more push up front. It’s something he’s worked hard at during the offseason and he’s had two solid outings so far this season.
Junior DE Jason Worilds and senior DE Nekos Brown are trouble makers on the outside for the Hokies and in the secondary, CB Stephan Virgil, FS Kam Chancellor and SS Dorian Porch are studs.
Offensively, scouts are drooling over left guard Sergio Render, a road-grader who can get to the second level pretty easily. Watching Suh and Render face off this weekend should be a lot of fun.
Other games to catch if you can: Michigan State at Notre Dame; Texas Tech at Texas; East Carolina at No. 24 North Carolina; No. 18 Utah at Oregon; Florida State at No. 7 BYU; No. 3 USC at Washington; No. 17 Cincinnati at Oregon State.